Challengers mostly guarded despite topping Red Bull in Canada FP2

Spread the love

Photo credit: AMG Mercedes Formula One Team

All the teams chasing Red Bull have brought upgrades to Montreal, and, while practice on Friday was curtailed by technical difficulties in FP1, those upgrades have shown themselves to be mighty, with Mercedes going 1-2 on the timesheets at second practice and defending champion and points leader Max Verstappen down in sixth.

For their part, both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were guarded in their assessments of the car. Hamilton said: “The car didn’t feel bad, but I think we definitely have got some work to do.[…] I think everyone’s having a struggle with the bumps. I think we have just got to improve our ride control and improve the balance through the corner. I think we will be alright.”

Russell was more pessimistic, and pointed out the limitations of working off practice times: “We did our low-fuel qualifying prep towards the end of a session when the track was quicker.[…] We need to find out where we’re going to be. I think we’re still on the tail end, especially in qualifying pace, compared to Ferrari and Aston Martin. Valtteri [Bottas] looked quick, maybe an Alpine too. But we always know it comes to us on a Sunday, so that’s when it’s going to matter.”

Ferrari showed great pace on paper as well, with Carlos Sainz in third and Charles Leclerc in fifth on the FP2 order. Leclerc in particular was optimistic, calling his session “among the good Fridays for us. I had a really, really good feeling with the car.”

“We are obviously learning this package more and more, so we are optimising it. Everything we’ve done to the car went in the right direction, so that’s good.”

Sainz was more pessimistic, particularly noting some brake issues from Friday.

“I felt like today we didn’t get it right with a couple of settings. We will try and get them better for tomorrow and I’m sure we will be more competitive.”

Meanwhile, Aston Martin drivers Fernando Alonso (4th in FP2) and Lance Stroll (9th) were guarded in their assessment, with Stroll simply saying “the car is feeling good. I think we’re looking pretty good.” Alonso noted the lack of time to properly gauge their progress, but lamented that “it was not ideal for the teams, but mostly it was for the fans[…that] came very early to the circuit.”

Not mentioned at all has been the team they’re all chasing, Red Bull, winners of every race so far this season, but down in 6th and 8th place on the practice times were Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. Both drivers admitted that the bumpiness of the circuit doesn’t suit their car.

Verstappen said after practice: “We know our limitations with the car and probably on the track like it is now, with the bumps and the curbs, is it’s definitely not suiting our package for now. But[…] we’ll try to to find a few improvements.”

Perez was more optimistic: “I think we got a good base and we just have to make sure that we play a bit with the car. So it was only a bit in a hurry, you know. So I think there’s plenty for us to understand from tonight.”

The combination of off-the-pace Red Bull, improved everyone else, and the possibility of rain for Saturday qualifying mean this could be the most unpredictable race of the 2023 season so far. Charles Leclerc’s assessment could probably be echoed through the paddock: “we just need to have a clean qualifying tomorrow in very tricky conditions and then see what’s possible on Sunday.”